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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has proposed a rule designed to provide Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants increased access to healthy foods by requiring stores that accept SNAP to stock a wider array of food choices.
"USDA is committed to expanding access for SNAP participants to the types of foods that are important to a healthy diet," said Kevin Concannon, USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services. "This proposed rule ensures that retailers who accept SNAP benefits offer a variety of products to support healthy choices for those participating in the program." More than 260,000 retailers nationwide are currently authorized to redeem SNAP benefits.
The 2014 Farm Bill required USDA to develop regulations to ensure that stores that accept SNAP offer a broader variety of healthy food choices. The stocking provisions in the proposed rule would require SNAP-authorized retail establishments to offer a larger inventory and variety of healthy food options for SNAP recipients. SNAP retailers would be required to offer seven varieties of qualifying foods in four staple food groups for sale on a continuous basis, along with perishable foods in at least three of the four staple food groups: dairy products; breads and cereals; meats, poultry and fish; and fruits and vegetables. In addition, the proposal calls for retailers to stock at least six units within each variety, leading to a total of at least 168 required food items per store.
USDA is working to ensure that access to food retailers is not hindered for SNAP participants as a result of this rule. Comments and suggestions on the proposed rule are encouraged to help USDA determine when, where and if any flexibility should be provided to prevent reductions in SNAP client food access.
The proposed rule also underscores USDA's authority under the Food and Nutrition Act to publicly disclose information about SNAP retailers disqualified or sanctioned for program violations. Information to be disclosed under provisions of the proposed rule would be limited to the name and address of the store, the owners' and officers' names, and the nature of the violation for which the retailer was sanctioned.
"SNAP violations are a serious matter," Concannon said. "Public disclosure of this information is intended to serve as a deterrent against retailer fraud. The information would provide the public with insight into the integrity of these businesses and individuals."
Comments on the proposed rule are due by April 18, 2016. For more information, see the Federal Register Notice.